|Greetings, My name is Tom Pi. I am 54 years old and hail from Darrington, Wa. USA. I spent 2 weeks at ROSE at the end of December, 2106. Before making the journey I researched volunteer activities in India online, as that is my preferred method of travel – that is, cultural immersion. In my mind I envisioned an India that I could witness from the inside without the pollution of tourism or commercialism. So often I’d find myself afflicted with culture fear that caused me to stay in my hotel or seek other Westerners for comfort. In other words I was retreating rather than advancing. ROSE seemed like it had something else in mind, chiefly an underlying promise to involve visitors locally without pretention. It’s quite a ways from Delhi but I found that I had made the right choice. On arrival I was given a cup of chai and sat down to chat with Jeevan, the director. I was given a modest room and the next morning shared breakfast with his family. This was a good start I reflected to myself while gazing upon the remarkable sunlit terraces. It wasn’t initially clear what I was going to be doing nor was it lucid what Jeevan expected of me. This is why a few days would not be appropriate for a hurried volunteer. It took 3 days alone to discover my purpose here. I began practicing Hindi phrases, spent time with the carpenter, contributed a meal and mastered the squat toilet. I suddenly found that I was immersing, just as I had hoped to do. It became clear that this was the sort of adventure that I had been seeking.
There are no demands of you here – you could quite comfortably and undisturbingly fill a journal or read a book between provided meals but if you have any sense of propriety in this socially unequal world you will answer a call to action and dip into this oft times alien culture. Immersion means just that – an overwhelming urge to know and understand the situation in which you’ve traveled 10,000 miles to put yourself into. Don’t expect India to echo the US or Europe. There are inconsistencies everywhere you look. Everything seems to be made of concrete. Why so much trash? Does every vehicle on the road need to be honking 24/7? If one could live in India for a year some of these questions might be answered. I felt my 2 weeks were a solid introduction, at least to the rural lifestyle. Yes, Indians are naturally curious and will swarm the light faced visitor but I found them to be gentle, honest and warm hearted folk, family oriented but somewhat powerless to change the government view of things and thus their social status. Jeevan here at ROSE is trying his best with limited resources. He is the earth of a grassroots organization, a fertile earth that will eventually grow all the produce necessary for change. It just needs a little Western fertilizer to get in into the spotlight.
“We are two British volunteers who have recently been staying with the Verma family in a beautiful setting in the foothills of the Himalayas. We really wanted to do something worthwhile while in India but found that a lot of charities had extortionate administration fees and a minimum length of stay requirement of at least one month. We soon came across R.O.S.E. Kanda which offered the perfect combination of volunteering and an experience of traditional rural Indian life at not too high a cost. We had no idea what to expect but were delighted when we laid eyes on the brightly rose-coloured family house and surrounding farm lands. The trip to Kanda is not an easy one but undeniably worth the time it takes to get here – the journey through the winding mountain roads is a wonderful experience in itself if you’re happy to share a bus with the locals and put up with the occasional bout of travel sickness! After one week with the family, we have witnessed a Hindu ceremony, tasted the delights of authentic home cuisine (eaten with hands of course), watched a cow being artificially inseminated, taught deprived Indian school children the hokey cokey and developed a warm attachment to Mr Verma and his family. We cannot recommend this experience more highly to anyone considering volunteering in India!
In the past, R.O.S.E. Kanda has raised a substantial amount of money thanks to the high number of visitors which has greatly improved the quality of lives of many poor residents here. We were, however, shocked to discover that R.O.S.E. is currently suffering from a lack of volunteers and therefore funds to initiate new development projects. Part of our job this week has been office-based to try to find new ways of promoting the organisation’s charitable activities, which we hope to continue on our return to England. Any volunteers with in interest in development, outreach or fundraising would therefore gain a lot from this experience and be highly valued. We have learnt a lot and thank the Verma family, wishing them every success in the future. We will stay in contact and hope to return to a thriving organisation in the future as it has been in the past.”
– Nicole and Harriet
‘Living all together within the same Indian family gave us the opportunity to experience and learn about new cultures. In the family we are introduced to a modest lifestyle, which allows us to comprehend the daily realities for a rural community in India. This is an incredible opportunity to experience and discover their music, smells, peaceful way of life and unique culture.’-Elise Desloges, Canada
‘Jeevan’s family welcomed me into their house and I enjoyed spending time helping with their chores or just playing with them. My only real problem whilst staying at ROSE was homesickness but the children would cheer me up by putting flowers in my hair or drawing with me. They are lovely people and I will never forget them. I have fond memories of Gunja trying to teach me to wash my clothes at the well. I really did appreciate all the delicious meals that were prepared by Jeevan’s wife and children. Thank you so much!’
-Polly Rathbone, UK
‘The altitude where we are staying is 2800 meters and sometimes it is hard to breathe. The view is so wonderful that it doesn’t matter. There are many hills to go down and up, there are no cars about, just little stoney paths.’
-Amy Dorman and Stephanie Humberest, Switzerland
‘I spent a short spell of 3 weeks at ROSE in Kanda. I found the experience totally worthwhile and informative…It helped me to really accept how little I understand this amazingly vast world and how much I am in no position to judge anyone else’s behaviour, culture, etc. or even my own for that matter.’
-Andrew Daube, Australia
‘Life at Jeevan’s house is relatively comfortable … (but) you can see all around poor families that suffer from a lack of resources. This … makes you realize that most of your problems are unimportant.’
-Eric Samson, Canada
‘The experience I gained here will always remain as on my most precious possessions.’
-Reiko Yoshida, Japan
‘I will be incredibly sad to leave Kanda … I will miss everyday life with the Vermas. Life here can be harsh, especially for the women, but they people are hardy ,inquisitive and open.’
-Carol Kitchener , UK